Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 34 – Holidays

A year ago I was on holiday on The Silk Roads where this picture was taken. Earlier this week, a friend asked where she could read anything I’d written about that trip. I haven’t written anything much. There is a great deal of erudite, academic writing about the silk roads and I have no expertise to add to that. However, I did enjoy exposure to the different cultures of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

Holidays may come again. This being Sunday and for some a Holy Day, here’s the link to this Sunday’s worship from Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church. It can be accessed here.

In a little feedback, a friend has told me how friends of hers appreciated discovering about Scotland’s Gardens Scheme’s virtual tours.

Reading Hadley Freeman’s article in yesterday’s Guardian Weekend, was a comfort. It is, she asserts, okay, in fact good, to chat about and do things not prompted or influenced by the virus. It won’t make it go away, but it will let your human nature peep through.

Okay. We got more than 2 in the quiz. I finished the bog on the 2nd jigsaw. DH watered the garden. (In April? Ed) Great gossip with elderly neighbour (see Hadley above). Excellent progress with Book Group book and chat from one of the family’s households. Watched the christening scene from the Mariinsky’s Sleeping Beauty, free for a limited time on U-tube.

Daughters of the Lake by fellow Capital Writer, Jane Riddell, is Free to download till

April 29th Get your copy here

Three’s A Crowd, Kate Blackadder’s first anthology of previously published magazine stories is also free to download from today for five days. get your copy here



Lockdown Diary – 2020 – 26 – Chatting with friends

These aren’t the actual friends I was chatting with, but in more ordinary times, they might have been. This was taken at last year’s RNA conference in Lancaster and features three of the Capital Writers. Here’s No 4

During Lockdown:

Kate Blackadder has published a new anthology of short stories,

Still Rocking

Jo Allen has shared the cover for her third DI Satterthwaite book,

Death on Coffin Lane which is available to pre-order.

Jane is offering her

Things We Choose To Hide, free until Wed April 22nd.

As reported earlier, I have accepted an offer for a short novel from My Weekly, title and dates to follow.

We’ve had much to discuss electronically, if not in person. I hope you’re all finding people to talk with and things other than the virus to discuss.

I hope by the time this post goes live, the glitches marring yesterday’s RR will have been resolved. My apologies, but I don’t know why some of the posts aren’t showing as they should.

Friday saw the above mentioned chatting with friends on Whereby – worked really well. I made an Eve’s pudding and remembered to sprinkle sliced almonds on the top. Yay! I took a lucky dip bag of books to a friend deprived of her local library at present. I cannot find any Bran Flakes – do not send toilet rolls, thank you.


Lockdown – 2020 – 11 – Restlessness

Another picture from the Crete trip and one that’s typical for an island – boats in waiting: the world is out there and here’s how we get to it.

Only not at this moment. At this moment we do still have to keep on staying at home. Our ambitions need to be more arty

than party

Exhausted Footwear

It’s not easy, is it? I read of the death of a member of my congregation in the local paper this morning. It’ll be such a quiet funeral. People have new grandchildren. People are hospitalised for issues unrelated to COVID 19, but we must have faith in the policy we’ve adopted. We must stay at home.

No Hello Fresh yesterday because of soaring demand. Three cheers for my freezer. The HF should come today.

I won at scrabble. Picked up the J, X and Z in one turn, having already had the Q. We need to find a wee bag as turning the letters into the box from the grid is not sufficient shuffling.

Progress on the WIP. A walk after supper.

Fellow Capital Writer, JANE RIDDELL, has a blog tour ongoing. The Book is Chergui’s Child and today the tour arrives at Scrupulous Dreams blogspot here

Drop by and read about Jane’s moving work of women’s fiction.

How are your itchy feet? Are you coping and could your coping mechanisms help the rest of us? Do share them in the comments, please.


Speaking Engagements – Capital Writers

CAPITAL WRITERS have two speaking engagements this week.

MONDAY 27th May

First up is tonight at the invitation of The Corstorphine Community Festival. We’re in Corstorphine Library between 6.30 – 8.30 for a meet the author session with librarian Shirley and Cosy Crime local writer, Cecilia Peartree.


If you can’t catch us there, and even if you can, come along on Saturday afternoon to a fun storytelling event in Mayfield Salisbury church, 18 West Mayfield, EH9 from 2.30-4,30

Coffee, tea and cake is promised as well as the launch of our Capital CrossReach Stories pamphlet. We’ve each written a story to mark the 150th anniversary of this remarkable organisation and for a small donation to CrossReach, you can secure a copy to carry off.

Round Robin – How do you self-edit your work?

How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.






Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.

I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.

Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?


Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.


Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.


Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.

In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.

As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth 

I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.

Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.

I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?


Skye Taylor

Diane Bator

Beverley Bateman

Connie Vines

A.J. Maguire 

Dr. Bob Rich

Victoria Chatham

Helena Fairfax

Judith Copek

Rhobin L Courtright




A Writer’s Year – Are you out there, Charles Rigg?

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

A small selection of the novels by EWC members past and present.

January I began 2013 in the knowledge that MuseItUp liked my Regency romance, Mariah’s Marriage, and were to e-publish it in May. Could I write another? Normally in January, I like to write and fire off a lot of shorts. Fillers, letters to the Magazine page, opinions, jokey observations, but this year was different. I was about to become a published novelist and must, therefore, write novels.
And blog about writing novels. So, sadly, my play blog has slipped into the background, although I update it from time to time, and Novels Now was born on 2nd January. I did a book review of Her New Worst Enemy by Christy McKellen and interviewed Scarlet Wilson who writes medicals for M & B.

February In February, I wrote the first posts in a series. This one was about ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ A question truly dreaded by writers. I featured the RoNas which are one of the highlights of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s year. This year they were graced by Richard and Judy.

March was a cross fertilisation as my publishers were doing Pet Writing Peeves on the MuseItUp blog. I opened a google a/c and managed to do an invited post. (Learning curves…)
But the biggie on Novels Now was the cover reveal for Mariah’s Marriage. Gorgeous! Designer is Charlotte K Volnek for MIU.

Another author interview. Fellow Edinburgh Writers’ Club member, Jane Riddell, talked about Water’s Edge, her debut novel from Thornberry Press.

May saw the publication of Mariah’s Marriage and I was able to report on attending the Joan Hessayon Award ceremony. Sadly, we didn’t win, but the RNA made all ten contenders feel like winners and I had a lovely trip to London for the event. I set off, electronically, on a publicity blog tour. Exhausting, but fun.

I was so pleased to announce that MIU had taken Bella’s Betrothal and she would be published in September.

I started a new series. This one is about aphorisms. Are you out there, Charles Rigg? I began with the cautionary tale of saying what I thought about a friend’s haircut in a post about Honesty is the best policy. It gets numerous visits from people in India. Are they writing school essays? Lovely to know you’re interested and keep visiting.

I offered a free copy of Mariah’s Marriage in the reverse birthday gifts blog of novelist, Sally Quilford. I’ve been slow to utilise giveaways, but they are of interest to many and there’s one current on this blog. Scroll down to ‘My Writing Process’. It closes at midnight on 5th January, ’14 UK time.

So fast, cover reveal (again by CKVolnek) for Bella’s Betrothal, and an online launch day. Lovely reviews from a variety of people go up. I go away for a month.

Oh Dear!

October More launch related activities.

Great visit to the Georgian House in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square and a chance to learn some of the Polonaise and hear about Yule logs and Mr. Lamont’s love of Ayrshire cheese. As Bella’s Betrothal is set in post Georgian Edinburgh, this was very exciting.

My Writing Process, a blog tour current through Facebook, provided a platform and chance to cross-fertilise with other writers of historical romance. Lovely to welcome returning visitors, but also new ones.

My writing year has been full of firsts and interest. I’ve worked behind the scenes with lovely editors Judy Roth and Greta Gunselman and illustrator CK Volnek. My publisher, Lea Schizas has been supportive and encouraging. Reviewers have been favourably impressed in many cases and given their reviews freely. Readers have sent messages, publicly and privately. I cherish moments when people say things like, ‘You write really well.’ They’re simultaneously pleased and relieved.

In My Writing Process, I revealed the third enterprise is Daisy’s Dilemma. In 2014, I need to get the fingers on the keys and finish this WIP. Then it has to take the usual hurdles. I hope it’ll be out there for you to read and me to blog about, but…

Thanks for being along on the ride. Happy New Year.

Author Interview JANE RIDDELL

Jane Riddell’s debut novel is Water’s Edge, published on 22nd April 2013 by Thornberry publishing. Jane dropped by to share a few thoughts on writing and a short extract from her book, Water’s Edge.Jane Riddell

Anne asked: I know you’ve completed a Masters in Creative writing, Jane. I imagine you covered many different forms of writing for that. Why have you settled on novels?


Jane replied: thank you for interviewing me on your website, Anne.

I had actually written three books before I studied for my Masters.  By then I was aware that my ideas lend themselves to writing novels and that I find it difficult to downsize!  So although the course covered life writing, short stories, and other forms of writing such as editing, abridging and adaptation, it didn’t influence me to change my main focus.  I have always enjoyed life writing, and still dabble in short stories, albeit with little success to date….

What the Masters did do was help me begin to think more expansively about the process of writing in general, and particularly with regard to novels: about the importance of digging deep, having cohesion, considering original ways to tell a story.  I also learned about some complex writing techniques which add layers and richness, for example, free indirect discourse – not that I’ve in any way mastered FID yet.  How did Jane Austen manage this artistry at such a tender age?

Water's Edge

Water’s Edge

Anne asked: Doctors and nurses, look no further than Lucilla Andrews and Conan Doyle, often take to fiction writing. I know you’ve worked in the health field, too. Why do you think fiction attracts health professionals?

Jane replied: Working for the NHS as a dietitian, I wasn’t so exposed to the ‘front line’.  However, I imagine that for a doctor or nurse having to accept that they can’t always cure their patients or even prevent them from suffering, writing a story where they take control of what happens provides a welcome antidote. It also allows them to make sense of what they do. Additionally, writing about something particularly distressing at work could be therapeutic/cathartic and a safer outlet than letting rip at colleagues or giving their families a hard time!

Anne asked: What writing projects are you working on at present?

Jane replied: I am finishing a rewrite of another novel, Chergui’s Child.  I completed this in 2008 and it did the round of agents with no takers.   As my writing style has changed since then and I still strongly believe in the storyline, I decided it merited a rewrite.  I’ve changed the structure but the story remains essentially unchanged.  The final edit should be completed by June.

I am also in the final stages of writing a short guide to editing in which ThornBerry Publishing have expressed an interest.  With the culinary working title of EGGS (editing guide for geeks), it outlines a technique I’ve devised for the laborious but ultimately rewarding process of editing.

Readers can connect with Jane on her author’s website:  www.quietfiction.com, or on her blogs: http://wwwbloggercom-janelilly.blogspot.co.uk/   and


Jane has kindly supplied a short extract from Water’s Edge to entice us in. Read on…


Water’s Edge

Madalena invites her four adult children to Switzerland to celebrate the anniversary of her hotel.  What she doesn’t realise is that there are tensions among them, which will play out during their visit.


Chapter 1

Portia surveyed the playroom of her childhood home.  Nothing had changed: the oak bookcases, the dressing up box which Dad had assembled one stormy afternoon.  Even the whiteboard, where they wrote their “thought for the day”, remained on the wall.  She now wondered how her family would react if she wrote, “Mistake coming to Switzerland.  Should have stayed in London.”

She wandered into the private sitting room.  Here there were changes.  The green and wine striped sofa and matching armchairs were new.  So was the rug.  The familiar smell of an apricot potpourri lingered, however.   On the sideboard lay a tea tray with crockery and some Japanese paper napkins.   Beside it, two stands displayed cakes on silver doilies.

Her eye rested on the corner walnut bureau, focused on the visitor’s book, and she made herself open it, read the names of attendees at Dad’s funeral.  The leather felt comforting, but its smell evoked an involuntary swallow.  It didn’t seem like five years since they’d surrounded his chrysanthemum coffin at the graveyard.   Since she’d tolerated the incessant handshaking, mourners addressing her mother as “Frau Fontana” despite having known her for years.  Bereavement was supposed to bond families.  Not theirs.  Was this why Mum had summoned them back?

She flicked through the pages of tributes to her father.  On the last page were the immediate family’s signatures – everyone’s except Lucy’s.

At the time, it had felt inappropriate, if understandable, to be relieved about the funeral being during term time.  To so easily justify Lucy’s remaining at school, where the housemistress would keep an eye on her in case she became distressed by Papa’s death.  With Lucy in Brunnen, Portia would constantly have been on tenterhooks.

Portia now closed the book and wandered over to the window.  Half way down the lake, boats with candy striped sails whizzed across the water, turned and tacked back in the easterly breeze.  Such freedom….  In the garden, Herr Huber was flinging weeds into a bucket which pinged as stone hit metal.   Beside him lay a basket of coral roses, probably destined for a table centre this evening.

She poured a cup of tea, wishing she could have the room to herself for longer.  As the door opened, she stood to attention.

Well, need to know what happens next? Then buy Water’s edge:


KATE BLACKADDER The Family At Farrshore Ulverscroft Linford Romance Library

Kate B at Penrith

Kate B at Penrith

Kate Blackadder, Edinburgh based author of Family at Farrshore, is a well known writer of short stories and her name will be familiar to many readers of large circulation mags such as People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly. In 2011 Kate’s first serial for People’s Friend, The Family At Farrshore was published in seven weekly instalments. It has now been produced by large print label Ulverscroft in their Linford Romance Library and is available from April the first.

Kate and I are both members of the Edinburgh Writers’ Club.Together with a third member, Jane Riddell, we have our first novels coming out this Spring. Novels Now may refer to this as the Edinburgh Three, but only while editorial sense is switched off. An interview with Jane, author of Waters’ Edge will appear later this month.

I took the chance to ask Kate Blackadder a few questions about this exciting future for Family At Farrshore. I’m sharing her answers here.

You’re a well established short story writer, Kate, with People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly among others. How challenging was it to write so many more words about your characters?

It was certainly a learning curve. The serial came about because I won The People’s Friend First Instalment of a Serial competition at the Scottish Association of Writers Annual Conference. But that’s all I had written – the first instalment. So when The People’s Friend asked me to write a scene-by-scene synopsis before they gave me the go-ahead, it was like walking into a roomful of people I’d barely met. But in writing that synopsis (which took me weeks …) I got to know them all very well, especially the five characters who had viewpoints. Each of their stories had to be interwoven and I ended up with seven instalments rather than the six I thought I’d have.

I know you read widely. How does the magazine serial differ from a ‘normal’ novel?

In a People’s Friend serial each weekly instalment of around 5000 words is divided into ‘chapters’ with headings.

This is how it looks in the large-print edition too. And of course the end of every instalment has a cliff-hanger!

The writing process though, in my experience, was certainly different from ‘normal’ writing because I submitted each instalment to The People’s Friend and waited for their comments before proceeding with the next one. This meant that I couldn’t go back and change anything I’d written earlier – which might sound an impossible way to work but, in fact, it was great and I really enjoyed it.  The People’s Friend staff were very supportive and encouraging.

Are you working on anything at present?

I’m very good at starting things … so, yes – a pocket-novel-length story, a longer novel which will involve lots of research, and short stories.

How about a short extract to tempt readers along to their local library?

Kate's First book

Kate’s First book

This is how The Family at Farrshore begins:

“Cathryn’s hands tightened on the steering wheel. She could hardly see through the windscreen although the wipers were working overtime.

It had been fine in Lancaster when she left just after lunch, anxious to put the miles between herself and Daniel, but the weather had got steadily worse and the road more narrow. She’d hoped to get to Farrshore by six but the dashboard clock told her it was almost eight when all of a sudden a figure loomed up at the side of the road, an arm held out.

At home she wouldn’t dream of stopping for a stranger, and the May evening was still light, but she couldn’t leave someone standing in all this rain. It might be hours before another car passed.

As she came nearer she could see that it was a man, tall and fair-haired. He bent down and wiped the window with his hand and smiled. Just for a moment she was reminded of Daniel and her heart jumped.

She pressed the button to open the window a fraction and leaned over to hear him.”


Actually, I know what happens next, but for those of you who don’t, I highly recommend The Family At Farrshore and local libraries.

Thanks for dropping in, Kate, Novels Now wishes you every success with your first book and all those projects.

Kate is Membership secretary of Edinburgh Writers’ club. edinburghwritersclub/